Predicting High School Freshmen Dropout Through Attentional Biases and Initial Grade Point Average

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The Journal of At-Risk Issues

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The authors examined the predictive nature of attentional biases and initial grade point average of ninth graders dropping out of high school. Attentional biases are cognitive shifts in focus that are linked in both time and context toward stimuli perceived by an individual as threatening. Data were collected from 68 high school freshmen (45.6% male; 2.9% African-American, 77.9% Caucasian, 7.4% Hispanic, 4.4% Native American, 7.4% Other) who participated in a longitudinal study beginning in their freshman year of high school and ending when students either graduated from or dropped out of high school. We determined if youth who subsequently graduated or dropped out of high school showed attentional biases toward school-neutral and school-threatening cues. Study participants completed a computerized probe detection task design, which measured participants' reactivity to possible attentional biases. Using logistic regression, we found attentional biases toward school-related cues and ninth-grade initial grade point average were significant predictors (p < .05) that increased the odds of students dropping out of high school. We discuss the implications of the findings for investigating attentional biases among school-based, nonclinical populations and use of attention biases screening to improve provision of interventions for students at risk of dropping out of school.